Charles Beaumont was born in Chicago, Illinois on January 2, 1929 to a less than doting household. Beaumont didn’t let shaky parenting stifle his dreams, however. After dropping out of high school to enlist in the Army, Beaumont eventually sold his short story “Black Country” to Playboy in 1954. That story was actually the first work of fiction to ever be featured in the magazine.
Beaumont was known as a creative genius with an infectious personality who ultimately cemented his name in the literary field with his work on The Twilight Zone.
Beaumont passed away at the age of 38 after a heartbreaking battle against Alzheimer’s disease and Pick’s disease. The tandem terminal illnesses simply “dusted” Beaumont away, as fellow author William F. Nolan put it.
My Personal Favorite: Beaumont is a widely renowned short story author but also was atop the Twilight Zone totem pole, producing some of the most memorable episodes of all time, including ‘The Howling Man’ and ‘Number Twelve Looks Just Like You’, which many consider to be two of the best installments in the series’ run. You won’t get an argument out of me there.
Poe and Beaumont: Beaumont wrote the screenplay to the film The Masque of the Red Death, directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price. Sadly, Beaumont was too sick to meet Corman in England for the re-writes, so R. Wright Campbell teamed up with Corman to complete the final script.
An Illness As Mysterious As His Writing: Beaumont began to suffer from a “mysterious brain disease” at the age of 34. His speech slowed significantly, his memory slipped regularly and he began to age rapidly. Close friend Forrest J Ackerman was the first to suggest that Beaumont was battling Alzheimer’s, which is almost unheard of in people of Beaumont’s age. As the illness took away much of Beaumont’s skill as a writer, friends took up some of his obligations as ghost writers, including Jerry Sohl and Nolan.
The Twilight Zone connection: Beaumont wrote twenty episodes of the famed show, with an additional two of those episodes being written by Sohl but credited to Charles. When Rod Serling accepted an Emmy award for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama in 1962, the creator of the series smiled and said, “to three writing gremlins named Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson and Dick Matheson, who do much of the writing on the kookie Twilight Zone, many thanks, fellas – come over and we’ll carve it up like a turkey!”
Timeless Writings: Beaumont’s work has seen a revival of sorts over the last few decades, namely with the release of The Howling Man in 1992 (a reprint of 1988’s Selected Stories, which included twenty-nine Beaumont stories) and A Touch of the Creature in 2010 (which collected fourteen previously unpublished and unfinished tales).
The Beaumont bloodline: Beaumont and his wife Helen had two sons and two daughters. His son, Christopher, is a writer in his own right.